A Year In Review: 2014

2014 was a huge year for me. I can’t help but become a little more reflective about all that’s happened to me – and that I’ve made happen – in the last twelve months.

I turned 21, Indiana Jones-style. I spent my 21st birthday with my parents, true good sports that they are, zip lining, driving Jeeps through the wilderness, and swimming in underwater caves in Mexico at Xplor Park. It was exhilarating, terrifying and truly unparalleled. (For a promo video of the sites I visited, you can check out these awesome shots of zip lining, the jeeps, and cave swimming via this YouTube video.) I’m almost wondering if I should just stop celebrating my birthday now – how could I ever top that?

I ran a half-marathon in Florida (for the second time in the sunshine state.) It was pretty awesome (and downright exhausting) to cross the finish line after 13.1 miles of Floridian heat and humidity in Marco Island, Florida. I hope I’ll be able to run it again one day, but for now, I’ll treasure that race as one of the most difficult in terms of pacing and mental toughness (I ran without music, I made some friends, I took walk breaks and tried to be humble.) I celebrated by going to Publix immediately afterward (which is still quite a novelty and love affair for this New Yorker.)

I pushed myself above and beyond, academically, when I took summer classes. I have to say that the day my final grade rolled in for Human Anatomy & Physiology II was probably one of the happiest days of 2014. I worked so hard for that A – the six-week, two-course summer session of A&P I and II was grueling and I’m proud to have made it through.

I moved off-campus, and by myself (sort of) for the first time. I live in a house now, instead of a dorm room, and it’s pretty sweet having my own room and being close to friends and classes. It’s not quite adulthood, though — I’m far too lazy to haul up a box spring, so my mattress is still on the floor, and just because I’m on off the meal plan doesn’t mean I’m cooking gourmet dinners every night. In fact….

This was my first year eating completely gluten-free. Ever since I found out I had a wheat allergy (November 2013), I’ve nixed all the wheat in my life. (For an explanation of medical reasons why people go gluten-free, you can check out this post.) After a whole year, I thought my meals would become way more sophisticated than just peanut butter and carrots (what can I say? I’m a total hermit when studying for exams), but it turns out that’s not exactly true. I’ve written a lot about my prior skepticism and the ways it’s changed my life here, and I started two gluten-free directories (Gluten Free Staten Island, for my hometown, and Gluten Free Hudson Valley, for my college town.) I’m always looking for recommendations, so please let me know if you have any suggestions in these areas!

I hosted a friend in New Paltz, and my friends from Staten Island visited me. I was so excited in September when one of my old roommates from the ASME Summer Internship Program made the trek up to New Paltz to visit me. We trekked around Minnewaska State Park, including Sam’s Point and the lake, and it was fantastic to catch up. And later, in December, my friends from home made good on their promises to visit me at college, and I was able to show them around the village.

I traveled solo for the first time. I traveled to visit another of my old roommates from the ASME program, who now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. I had a total blast despite the pre-travel jitters and I know I’ll probably return soon. I’m working on a longer post about Atlanta that will go up soon.

I completed college. I hesitate to say “graduated,” because technically I don’t walk across the stage at SUNY New Paltz till May 2015, but I’m done done done! It’s a great feeling (and, to be honest, it hasn’t completely set in yet.) I’m still struggling with this weird transitioning phase in my life (but I’ve figured out how to handle awkward situations, and you can too with this post.)

All in all, it’s been a great year. I can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for me.

Running Conversions

I enjoy running alone when I just want to wake up and go for a quick run, no fussing, or if I need some alone time.  I like to think life decisions out on long runs.  I always come back with a clear head, endorphins, and an idea of what I want to do.  (Or, if it’s a situation where I can’t do anything, at least some peace of mind that I need to leave it up to the universe, and it’s out of my control.)

Flow.  I like being on that running flow, when all your thoughts just swirl around and you can focus on your breathing, and the air, and the sunshine (if you’re lucky), the breeze, or that delightful, slightly obnoxious hum of lawnmowers.

But yesterday, during my shopping trip, my friend Deanna and I made a pact: running today!

Image

Awwyeah, ready to run!  We were shooting for three miles.  We took a little detour to the beach, parks, and a quaint residential area I never knew existed!  We ended up running 3.18 in ~38.  Woo!

After all, we ate a lot of cheesecake yesterday:

The Cheesecake Factory’s 30th Anniversary cake.  Yuuuuuuuuuum.  Sugar coma

Deanna got the oreo cheesecake.  I’ve never tried it, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any flavor there!

I also had the gigantic (lunch portion!) barbeque chicken salad from The Cheesecake Factory that lasted for three meals (seriously, I just ate some more of it for lunch).  Craaaziness, what a deal, they really give you a lot!

Well, it’s off to pack for my upcoming trip to Vancouver/Alaska/San Francisco! Woohoo!

Have you been to any of these places? Are you going on a vacation soon, or did you have one already?

Favorite type of cheesecake?

 

Disney Princess Half-Marathon: Part III

Right as I was about to run through Cinderella’s Castle, I saw Minnie in true princess fashion!  So, so excited.  The attendant warned that the line was closing in two minutes, but I made it!  Hurrah!

While I was on line, I saw the two unofficial balloon pacers walk by (they were walking a 16-minute-per-mile pace, the minimum needed to stay in the race, not get picked up & driven to the finish line).  I had always trained at about a 12:15 mile on my long runs, so I wasn’t worried–but I didn’t take into account walk breaks because I was sick, photo stops with characters, and a bathroom break.  Still, I wasn’t giving up a photo with Minnie!

Or The Princess and the Frog characters:

I LOVED their costumes and they were so friendly!  Definitely one of the highlights of the race.  At this point, the bikers informed me I was two minutes behind pace and I needed to catch up.  I asked if I stayed ahead of the bikers–would I be okay then?  They said no, I had to be in front of the balloon pacers–the ones that had passed me while I was on line for Minnie!  Aaaagh.  I sped off through Frontierland and rocketed forward.  I skipped the HUGE line for Sleeping Beauty as soon as I got out of the MK because I did NOT want to get driven to the finish line!  I must have been running an 8:00/mile pace; I was so terrified I would be picked up during the race.  I knew it was not an empty threat and I had been in a completely empty Adventureland (minus two women, but I’ll get to them later).  Luckily, I caught up to the balloon pacers and walked slightly ahead of them for a while.

At mile 7, Kelly Clarkson’s What Doesn’t Kill You was blasting on the speakers.  We were running on a VERY narrow strip of road backstage, and the walking and the song provided a much-needed boost.  I decided to pick up the pace to give myself a little wiggle room.  One man cheering on racers said, “Run faster! There’s free beer at the finish line!”  When no one picked up the pace, he started singing, “Iiiiit’s a small world after all, iiit’s a small world aaaaafter all…” over and over.  He was hilarious (and I obligingly picked up the pace).  As cute as that ride is, that song never gets stuck out of my head!
Stitch just went on a break when I passed by, but Lilo was still there!  Lilo & Stitch is definitely one of my favorite Disney movies, so I was psyched.  I was also feeling good, well ahead of the pacers, and running strong.

I saw my parents again at mile 8!  They made it!  Based on my 5k and 10k automated text updates, they weren’t expecting me for another twenty minutes at least.  I gave them a quick hug, explained I need to be speedy because of the balloon pacers, and took off.

I saw Goofy and golf gear and I had to stop…I mean, why not?! (Well, because I was terribly aware that the pacers were very close behind.)

Now, I had to wait in line for Goofy.  No problem.  But it was behind the same two women whom I had been behind since Adventureland–and they brought their autograph books with them.  Both of them.  It was incredibly, incredibly frustrating that I had to wait for the two of them for three photos while the characters signed.  With the pacers so close, this really shouldn’t be allowed.  Luckily, the character attendant for Goofy refused and I took off soon after.  I was determined to get ahead of them before the next photo.

Which I did!  Hi, Pocahontas.  I was a little nervous here because I could SEE the pacers from here! AAAH!  We were circling past the MK again and back down the other side of the highway, the opposite side from where we came.

In reality, when ants aren’t purple and cute, I hate ants.  But here I stopped for A Bug’s Life photo.

It was past mile 10 (I passed it around A Bug’s Life!), my first time in double-digits as a runner.  This Toy Story soldier was telling me to keep on keepin’ on!

More and more people were walking as we neared mile 11, but I kept on running!  As we ran over an overpass, they had cars clearing the highway of runners.

Up next: Mile 11 and the Magical Finish!  Disney Princess Half-Marathon: Part IV

Terrific Trip Tuesday: Kayaking!

I recently went on a school-sponsored trip to Bannerman Castle, located on Pollopel Island in upstate New York.

I almost missed the trip, if not for my neighbor waking me up at 8:30 to run to the bus! He (and my roomie) woke me up at 2 am to tell me when we had to leave the next day, but I don’t remember it! Scary. It’s like it was a dream. I can vaguely picture it, but I was really, really out of it. Um…it’s said there are three things you can get in college: sleep, good grades, and a social life. The catch? Pick two!

Clearly, I need more sleep.

What a gorgeous day! I’ve kayaked a few times before, but this was my first time in a single-seater. Soooo much fun! (No photos, sorry, because I forgot my phone on the bus.) I was worried it was going to be too strenuous (even though the flier said no experience necessary, I didn’t believe it! The backpacking trip also said no experience necessary, and that was TOUGH AS HELL), but it was fine. I was able to easily stay in the front of the pack and drifted to the middle often so I could just float and enjoy the view of the mountains. My arms weren’t even sore (okay, *too* sore) the next day. Yipee!

I’ve joined the outdoors club here at school (and I’ve recently become a yoga addict), so I’m anxious to see what other trips there are. There’s indoor rock-climbing this week…hmm.

The internet is slow here, but college is awesome. Once I have my posters up, I’ll show off my room. My Tuesdays should be renamed tiring Tuesdays…I had four classes today, so blogging is a stretch! Hopefully, as things get back to normal (bizarre schedule from Hurricane Irene), I’ll get back to blogging regularly. I apologize for the lull.

Happy adventuring! =)

Terrific Trip Tuesday: Salamanders, ‘Shrooms and Summits!

We hiked 1.5 miles in and within the first five minutes, I thought, this is the toughest thing I’ve ever done.

The first five feet were straight downhill, and my pack was set awkwardly, so it was digging into my head, and I couldn’t see. I seriously considered turning around.

And you know, I take the most pride in myself for not giving up when things get tough. Still, I’ve learned it’s important to know my limits.

It was time to push them a little farther.

We set up camp in Phoenicia and just sat around, played cards, and talked. At nighttime, we had a fire and we even found an orange salamander! (We dubbed him Charlie.)
It was nice and toasty around the fire. We played many rounds of the “picnic” game, when you have to guess different rules of what is allowed (and isn’t) on a picnic, like certain letters, or a certain number of syllables.

Charlie!

Some Jiffy-Pop around the fire.

The woods!



This is actually from the last day, but I LOVE my tent. I sleep so well outside. I just conk out. Too bad I don’t sleep that well in my dorm! I was up at five am today…eek.

My friends and I are hiking to the bus with our packs (about 1.5 miles back).

There were several small waterfalls and we even hiked along a stream. This is my favorite photo from the trip. 🙂

Our guide wanted to take some “artsy” shots. “Bend your leg! No, your other leg!”

He was so excited to find some edible black mushrooms (black crumpets) to eat.

I loved standing over the bridge. Almost there! We were very tired by this point (the third day, and the day after the hardest hiking day, when we hiked about six miles to the summit).

Actually, the second day, we made it about 2 miles to the trailhead before we heard BADOOOMBOOOOOOOOOM and within thirty seconds, it started pouring rain. We had to turn around and head back to camp. Around 3, it cleared up, and by 4, me and two other girls were bored enough to head back up to try the summit again. Boy, was it steep! The second attempt, we just took rain gear, headlamps, and water. Soooo much easier without packs.

Although it’s challenging, I love hiking! This was my first time hiking, and it really pushes your body in a different way.

Anyway, about .5 of a mile from the summit, we hit some rock stairs. These were some hard-core vertical stairs that were extremely steep. I have some issues with stairs. My balance is not the best, and I fell quite a lot as a child.

BADOOOMBOOOOOOOOOM.

I tried the rock stairs, but it was *so* steep that I was completely convinced I couldn’t make it back down in a downpour without sliding. I went back with one of the more experienced girls, and, sure enough, fifteen minutes down it started to POUR.

Turns out there were FIVE sets of rock stairs total. Eek. The others made it to the top and back down two sets, but they said it was absolutely crazy coming back down the rest of the way.

I was glad I challenged myself, but glad I went with my gut feeling (that I have so often overridden this year). After all, it was only my first time hiking EVER! I think I did pretty well. =D

On Sunday, we were never so glad to see the main road, and civilization, again.


The guides got straight to work cooking the sausages with mushrooms, though.

Three days of backpacking in Phoenicia, New York. One awesome adventure.

My first thought upon returning home? SHOOOOOOOWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Terrific Trip Tuesday: My Home Turf

Rewind to a cool day in NYC history….

When the Yankees won the World Series!

A friend and I skipped off to Manhattan to watch the parade, and then out to Max Brenner for some goodies.

I’m about to leave for my hiking trip, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. =)























What do you love about your hometown?

I’ve just moved into my dorm! Woohoo! What are you looking forward to about this school year?

Terrific Trip Tuesday: Washington, D.C.



Although my trip was only a few days, so much happened that I had to split it into two parts. (Part 1: National Harbor, Maryland and Alexandria, VA here.)

I’m going for a run! No, really, I AM!

After a day of sightseeing in Alexandria, I decided to check out the hotel gym for a quick run. I mean…super quick. I ran two miles in about 23 minutes and then ran back to my room to take a shower before the military band performance.



A workout is a workout. I wasn’t exactly planning on running this vacation (I had a huuuge inflating spider bite on my heel), but I was able to cover it up with a band-aid and some foam so I could walk (and run!) without pain. Due to this, I didn’t exactly pack running clothes…so my pajama Tweety top it was. =P

After a speedy shower, we headed down to the harbor to watch the Army band perform. They were awesome! We grabbed some subs and sat on the steps for a waterside show. Later that evening, we saw some impressive fireworks (while perched on boulders by the hotel) and I edited for several hours.

The next day was busy! We toured the Capitol. Fun fact–even though there is a crypt inside it, no one is actually buried there. George Washington was supposed to be buried there, but he requested in his will to be buried at Mt. Vernon instead. Inside statuary hall, there are “whisper spots” where you can hear people several feet away, thanks to the acoustics of the building.

Another fun fact: the statue of King Kamehameha I stood in statuary hall until the floor underneath started cracking. The statue and its base have a combined weight of 15,000 lbs. WHOA. It now stands in the lobby of the building. (more info on the statue and the man here.)

With a quick stop for some food in the cafeteria before heading over to the Library:

Corn on the cob, sauteed eggplant, and grilled chicken with olives, onions, and tomatoes.



What was probably the most expensive (yet tiny) salad I have eaten. I believe this was about $6…yikes. I was craving greens, though. Tomatoes, strawberry, spinach, and well, I’m not quite sure what else….



On to the Library of Congress! What a beautiful, beautiful building. The ceiling is engraved with famous quotes. My favorite? “The pen is mightier than the sword.” –Edward Bulwer-Lytton



I was probably most excited to see the viewing area with all the books. There is a balcony overlooking the library where National Treasure was filmed. No photos allowed, but I enjoyed it. The best part is that anyone can go in and read or research–you just need to apply for a reading permit across the street. Amazing.

The next day, we toured the White House! So. Cool. The president was awarding a Medal of Honor that same afternoon, but we didn’t spot him.

Did you know that there is no “back” and “front” of the White House? They are referred to as the North and South entrances, because they didn’t want to offend anyone by welcoming them at the “back” entrance.



We stopped for lunch at Founding Farmers. There was quite a wait, so we hopped over to CVS to buy some milk for breakfast and coffee.

Wow. It was totally worth the wait.

Founding Farmers prides itself on organic, local foods, and the place was mobbed! Everything was quite tasty. I had the butternut squash ravioli.



It was the best pasta I have ever had (outside Italy, of course). Whoa. Just looking at the photo makes me want to race back to D.C….

We topped off the day at the National Building Museum, where I saw a World’s Fair exhibit (pretty much empty, since the museum was closing–neat!) and a LEGO exhibit. I had seen some of the LEGO models before, on my Chicago trip, but this in-progress White House replica was cool.



It was a LONG, hot walk back to the hotel (my dad caved and took the metro), but a great day. We stopped at the American History museum before heading home the next day (best part: the First Ladies’ dresses and the replica of Julia Child’s kitchen!). I love U.S. history, but after a full day of touring the day before, we were all exhausted and ready to head back home.

Great trip! I hope I get to return to D.C. again. I love all the museums and historical sites.

Sweet Times + Swede Dreams

Why did I spend a recent morning dancing around my kitchen with a blissful look plastered on my face?





That would be dark chocolate-covered pineapple. In the shape of a star, plucked from an Edible Arrangements basket. YUM. My family goes through fruit by the ton, and this was a welcome surprise. (Okay, I don’t want to give away all the credit…I have been known to eat four or five apples/oranges/an entire bushel of grapes in one day. I am a fruitivore. =P)





The next day…IKEA! I had no reason to shop, what with my dorm already being furnished, but I’m a sucker for everything miniature. I love the sleek furniture and I coveted sooo many bookshelves. One day I will have a Manhattan apartment with lots of bookshelves. =D



We stopped for a quick bite to eat. I had Swedish meatballs with lingonberry jam and mashed potatoes, along with a side salad.

Lingonberry juice! =)

I loved the lingonberry jam and bought some to take home for myself. Dinner was some biscuits with jam…delish. I hadn’t had biscuits in a very long time.

I’ve been running around lately trying to finish up everything before I leave for college. I needed some quality friend time. =D

Froyo date with the lovely M. We went to a new place (with CHAIRS! Whoa, a step-up from the place I had been to before) and it was a nice time catching up, reminiscing about high school, and analyzing the shop’s soundtrack. The music consisted of Glee covers, Broadway, and random Disney songs…strange, but I liked it!



Nice, new shirt? Yes, super comfy, but…I realized I had blue armpits by the end of the night. Wash before wearing…noted! I am wearing my running shorts, but I actually went for a 20 minute swim that morning. I have not been in the workout groove lately (my muscles feel tight), and I’m not doing anything strenuous before my three day backpacking trip. It’s so close! A week from today, I’ll be in the middle of hiking in the mountains. Woohoo!

Cake batter, banana, and raspberry flavors with chocolate chips, kiwi, maraschino cherries, and rainbow sprinkles! I am addicted to the combination of cake batter and banana. After making a CVS run (for Sour Patch Kids and Fig Newtons…talk about sugar overload!), we watched The Notebook (me for the first time…I live under a rock. I liked it! I love the 40s era!).

I was up against the Rock Band champ…but I managed to pull off 99% on keyboard! Yipee! I had to record it because I am notoriously terrible at Rock Band. Queen? Heck yeah.

My attempt on drums? Um…there is a reason I didn’t photograph that one. 😉

Of course, M kicked my butt in Disney Trivial Pursuit. I consider myself a Disney enthusiast, but I am useless on questions for The Rescuers and The Great Mouse Detective…I really need to watch/re-watch those!

Well played, M, well played.

I think I’m bringing Disney Scene It to college for a hall-wide competition. =D

The next day, I hung out with more friends! I saw Glee, the movie, and stopped at Borders to pick up a few books.

Do you like board games? I can’t get enough of them. I say the weirdest things in reaction to clues (this week: MUUUUFASA! (a la The Lion King)), and they make great competition and fodder for inside jokes.

Watched any movies lately?

Terrific Trip Tuesday

I love to travel.

As you’re reading this, I’m on my way home from D.C.!

I have a ton of trip photos just hangin’ out, so I thought I’d use Tuesdays for a while to talk about my past adventures.

During August 2009, I went to Chicago.


(Land of amazing architecture!)

(I loved it.)


(A trip is not complete without a cheesy photo in front of the bean.)

(Hangin’ with a pirate at The Field Museum of Natural History.)

(The museum is most famous, though, for “Sue.” This dinosaur is famous for being the largest, most complete t-rex ever found.)

I also enjoyed The Museum of Science and Industry, where there was….


(Harry Potter: The Exhibition is fantastic. I saw it again when it came to New York, where it stays until September before going on an international tour. I highly recommend it!)

(We even ate in a pizzeria where writing on the walls was encouraged! Whoa.)

I loved Chicago. The residents were friendly, the food was fantastic (and reasonable!), and the architecture was amazing. I’d love to travel back someday, and I’d even consider living there…if it weren’t so darn cold in the winter. *shiver*

Definitely yay, I love road trips and I’d love to do one on my own someday. Maybe to Louisiana (I’ve never been!), Florida (I love FL, from southwest to central and just all over), or even west to Texas (I’ve been to San Antonio, but I’d love to visit more of the state) if I’m feeling a little braver.

Road trips! Yay or nay?
I (almost) never get bored between reading, playing license plate games, and staring out the window. Singing your favorite songs helps, too. Belting out Broadway on the highway is the best!

Serendipity!! (Adventure in the City)

Sorry I’ve fallen off the blogosphere lately! I just had college orientation, and I’m still catching up on my workouts.

A regular post about food and exercise will be back tomorrow (the lovely Paola from Sol de Luna was kind enough to tag me in the Amazing Blogger Award! I’m so psyched to fill it out.) But the past slew of days has been such an adventure. Orientation! Celebrating the 4th! And, of course, yesterday’s incredible adventure in the city.

First off, college is going to be great! I’ll be heading upstate for school. Mountains, anybody? Mountains mean mountain biking, trail running, and college means easy access to a gym! Woohoo! I was lucky enough to meet my roommate and new friends.

So, since college is coming quickly, a friend, M, and I decided to visit one of our friends at NYU. I hadn’t been to Greenwich Village in a while, so I decided to find all the places I’d been hearing about….

Peanut Butter & Co. had too many tempting options! I finally settled on the Peanut Butter Sampler. The best picks? Dark Chocolate Dreams (imagine Nutella laced with addictive substances and dipped in magic. Here you go.) and White Chocolate Wonderful.

(It’s a shame I’m not a huge celery fan. Apples with pb all the way, for me.)

I ended up having half of M‘s Peanut Butter Cup sandwich, aka pb and Nutella. YUM. The sandwiches were surprisingly filling. Thanks, chica, and my growling stomach that rules my mind thanks you, too.

And then THIS happened:
“So are you two hanging out in the city after?” (The true life of a suburbanite: Manhattan = ‘the city.’)
“Yup, we’re going to The Strand and then Insomnia.”
“Well, at 6:30 I’m meeting Meg Cabot!”

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT. So, of course, we accompanied her to the NYU bookstore, where the fantabulous Meg Cabot was giving a presentation on her new novel, Overbite. I love her novels!! She’s just as nice and hilarious in person as I thought she’d be! It was a small presentation, and it was worth the wait. The whole time I couldn’t believe it was happening.

(PROOF.)

I called my mom right after, saying, “I just met Meg Cabot! Yes, THE Meg Cabot!”

Not gonna lie, we felt just a bit like rockstars.

Earlier in the day, after trekking around in the Village, we headed to The Strand. Success! $1 for the Narnia sound track and an illustrated, colored version of The Little Prince. I actually found a pop-up version, and believe me, I was very tempted to bring it in to my English class! College is great already because The Little Prince is on my reading list. =D

Insomnia is so tiny. Only three stools inside! I would’ve walked right by if M hadn’t spotted it. I bought a PB Cup cookie, but truth be told, I was pb’ed out! Too much pb, though I never thought I would say that. I did have pb this morning, though, so don’t worry, it’s a temporary condition! 🙂 We also relaxed in Washington Square Park, which I had never actually been to before! (Bad New Yorker, bad.) Seeing the fountain made me want to dance around like in Glee.

I will settle for an ice cream sandwich, though.

(I am dangerously attractive after a long day of walking in the heat and stuffing my face.)

I had a delicious dinner of london broil sandwiches, (yes, plural. THEY WERE AWESOME.), bbq chicken, macaroni salad, watermelon, and a cupcake. Thanks, M, they were delicious.

Hope you all had a great 4th of July! I sure did.